Clarke glad to be back in the middle

Preston North End's Tom Clarke polices Rochdale's Ian Henderson

Preston North End's Tom Clarke polices Rochdale's Ian Henderson

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Preston North End captain Tom Clarke was happy to be back in his favoured position as North End beat Rochdale 1-0 at Deepdale.

In recent weeks defender Clarke has been playing on the right but after centre half Paul Huntington hurt his back in North End’s 1-1 draw with Fleetwood last Sunday Clarke slotted back into the middle.

Clarke rekindled his partnership with Bailey Wright against Dale and was pleased to mark his 100th PNE appearance with a clean sheet.

He said: “It was nice to get back in the middle. I’m comfortable in either position but I sort of prefer centre half.

“It is somewhere that I have probably played most for my other clubs and it was nice to get back in there.

“Keeping a clean sheet is something we work hard on in training.

“It is something we are pleased with

“It was a great team effort, great work rate from everyone and we got our rewards.”

After a slow start Jermaine Beckford created something out of nothing to fire home from an acute angle in the 36th minute.

And Clarke admitted he was disappointed with the way North End started the Good Friday clash.

He said: “We were disappointed with the start.

“We wanted to start quick like the two previous games at Barnsley and Fleetwood.

“I think we started brilliantly in those games and we wanted to carry that on.

“But Rochdale came out and started well but we managed to keep them compact and we got on top of them as the game went on.”

Rochdale beat North End 3-0 at Spotland back in September and Clarke believes communication was key to North End’s reverse victory.

He said: “We know they are a good passing team and that it was going to be difficult.

“We had to work hard and thankfully Jermained Beckford has slotted it away and we have held on.

“They have got good movement - especially in midfield - they have a lot of good runners.

“So it was just a case of knocking on and good communication.

“I didn’t think we were fully at it in the first half but we got the goal and I think second half we were loads better.”

And Clarke hailed Bolton loanee Beckford for bagging his eighth goal of the season.

Clarke praised Beckford for creating something out of nothing and as PNE are second in the League One table with seven games to go Clarke urged Beckford to keep rippling the back of the net and fire North End back up to the Championship.

He said: “Jermaine battled hard. I think the lad headed it against him and luckily it bounced and it is a great finish through the keeper.

“Sometimes you need something from out of the blue.

“Becks is good at creating his own chances and thankfully he has done that against Rochdale.

“We are going to need that throughout the rest of the season now.”